5 Ways Toyota Could Trade Boring for Bold
Toyota chief Akio Toyoda was recently quoted as saying that the automaker's cars are no longer "boring." We're going to stop him right there. In reality, many vehicles in the lineup wear their blandess like a mantel of plain vanilla ice cream — from the humdrum Toyota RAV4, which finished close to last in our recent Compact SUV Challenge, to the completely forgettable Corolla, which fared similarly in our Compact Sedan Challenge.
Toyoda acknowledged there's "still room for improvement," and to that statement, we agree. Here are five ways Toyota can add some spice to its lineup:
1. The 86 Really Should Be Able to Outdrag a Minivan
We're cringing (and giggling) with embarrassment that Toyota's supposedly sportiest vehicle wears a humiliating new title: drag-strip loser. To a minivan. The lightweight, rear-drive 86 has promising go-fast looks but fizzles on the road. Fix it, give it a turbo! Even adding a roadster version would make it more interesting.
"I won't suggest power solves all problems — some manufacturers pile it on to mask other shortcomings — but it does reflect the wrong mindset when the quickest Toyota model is a RAV4 with the optional V-6, which was the case just a few years ago," said Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder.
2. Toyota CH-R: Looks Cool, Drag to Drive
The subcompact CH-R has loads of personality on the outside, but it's a completely generic driving experience. If you're going to go for wild, Toyota, back it up. Give the CH-R a turbo (which is available in other countries) and add all-wheel drive (since you're trying to get us to call it an SUV).
"Styling needs to be beautiful, not just odd. It is possible to be distinctive without being polarizing. Mazda's done a beautiful job of not being boring – not boring to drive, not boring to look at, not boring to ride in," said Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman.
3. Live a Little, Corolla!
The compact class is where automakers tend to have a little fun. Not Toyota. Where Honda has the Civic Si and Type R, Toyota has the Corolla, four wheels of meh. Our advice: Make the Corolla S appearance package into an actual Civic Si-style sport package that would give the Corolla some buzz with younger buyers and tuners; Heck, maybe it'll even be able to outrun a Sienna.
4. Follow the 2018 Camry's Lead
For 2018, Toyota got a lot right with the redesigned Camry; we called it a unanimous winner from the Detroit auto show in January. The ground-up redesign focuses on pumping up the Camry's attitude through enhanced driving performance and more aggressive styling. Toyota says its new chassis provides better ride quality along with more responsive handling and steering. It's also practical; the 2018 Camry also has an impressive list of standard safety features, like forward collision warning with automatic braking.
Iterate on that, Toyota.
5. Build the FT-4X Concept
The concept has quirky, rugged styling, clever interior packaging and a toolbox full of convenience and tech gadgets. Neat details: It features a GoPro video camera built into the driver's side door mirror, a power outlet at each roof tie-down hoop for lighting, roof accessories or camp electronics, and a waterproof cargo storage box.
The concept was built with millennials in mind and oozes more hipster coolness than Sir Barkley Charles' Instagram page. If Toyota actually builds it, and not a watered-down version, millennials might come.